Russia and India are working closely to ensure swift delivery of systems, including MiG-29UPG aircraft, to New Delhi. However, a shadow looms on scheduled deliveries after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine in February.
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Dmitry Shugayev, the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told TASS at the ARMY-2022 international arms show that Russia and India are implementing joint military-technical cooperation projects to deliver Igla-S man-portable air defense systems and MiG-29UPG fighter aircraft.
“The following projects of bilateral cooperation are at various stages of their approval: arranging the production of Ka-226T helicopters in India, delivering and setting up the licensed production of Igla-S man-portable air defense systems, delivering additional sets for the manufacture of Su-30MKI aircraft, delivering additional MiG-29UPG planes and delivering additional Ka-31 helicopters,” the defense cooperation chief said.
The announcement comes just a day after the CEO of Rosoboronexport stated that Russia could deliver all five regiments of the S-400 air defense system to India by the end of 2023. India has already received one S-400 system from Russia, delivered in November 2021.
Swift delivery of military hardware would allow India to be better armed to combat the challenge of a belligerent China causing provocations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Earlier, the Indian Air Force had to defer the planned upgrade of 85 Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets due to international sanctions on Russia, as reported by EurAsian Times. The sanctions have also hindered plans to build 12 Sukhois in India as a replacement for the same number of jets lost over ten years.
Notably, the Indian Army has already inducted a handful of Igla-S man-portable air defense (MANPADS) systems to bolster its defense capabilities.
India acquired these Russian systems using its emergency finance capabilities, enabling the Army to buy the weapons immediately without waiting for additional approvals. New Delhi received 216 missiles, 24 launchers, and extra testing equipment as part of the procurement in December 2021.
The Igla-S system, an upgraded version of the Igla MANPADS, can engage low-flying aircraft and helicopters and identify air targets like drones and cruise missiles. A multi-layered air defense system purportedly uses it as the final line of defense against hostile threats. However, the transfer of MiG-29UPG fighter jets holds much significance.
MiG-29UPG Fighter Jets Coming To India Soon
The MiG-29UPG aircraft is the upgraded version of the MiG-29 operated by the Indian Air Force. The aircraft that made its maiden flight in 2011 has an integrated foreign-made avionics suite.
The aircraft includes the Zhuk-M radar, new avionics, an IFR probe, and enhanced RD-33 series 3 turbojet engines. The modernization is part of a $900 million contract to upgrade the 69-fighter fleet. Two RD-33 series 3 engines power the MiG-29 UPG with better thrust and service life.
The aircraft has one of the best thrust-to-weight ratios, which makes it very agile. The aircraft can efficiently perform impressive vertical takeoffs and has specifications like a top speed of 2400 km/h and an incredible rate of climb of 330 m/s.
Additionally, it is rumored that the MiG-29UPG has AESA radar.
The OLS-UEM system on the MiG-29 enables infrared search and track (IRST) during air-to-air battles. It consists of a 320×256 infrared sensor and a 640×480 TV camera. The OLS-UEM has coverage of +/-90 degrees in azimuth (sideways) and +60/-15 degrees in elevation and can detect airborne targets at a distance of 15–55 km.
After the Dassault Rafale, the MiG-29 is the only aircraft in the IAF with an inbuilt EW suite. The DRDO’s Defence Avionics Research Establishment lab, Israeli Elisra, and Italian Electronica are the manufacturers of the D-29 EW suite for the MiG-29UPG.
The D-29 is a fifth-generation AESA-based EW suite that includes an electronic support measure, a radar warning receiver, and other electronic countermeasures. Many experts had called the MiG-29s more capable than ‘much advanced’ Su-30MKIs.
The IAF currently operates four MiG-21 squadrons, five Jaguar squadrons, three MiG-29 (UPG) squadrons, three Mirage 2000 (UPG) squadrons, and 12 Su-30MKI, two LCA squadrons, and two Rafale squadrons.
With the MiG-21s to be grounded by 2025 and the LCA Tejas Mark1A still some years away, the delivery of MiG-29UPG becomes significant.
The MiG-29UPG fighters are among the most trusted fighter jets in the Indian Air Force. They were deployed to Ladakh in 2021 to create deterrence with an assertive neighbor.